Killing an innocent hostage by any means is horrible. But decapitation is so viscerally disgusting, that we should be somewhat thankful that al Qaida isn't better at managing their public image.
A bullet in the forehead is bad enough, but distressingly innocuous in these violent times. And given the virulent anti-Americanism sweeping the globe courtesy of Bush, it wouldn't be enough to dissuade those looking for inspiration from those standing up to the U.S. (There's a reason that Hugo Chavez in Venezuela is becoming a hero to many around the world, even though he's in fact just another dictator thug in the making.)
But al Qaida runs little risk of becoming accepted by the global anti-American community beyond the violent wingnut fundamentalist set. In fact, grotesque executions of innocent civilians may lose them the support of many who would be inclined to support them. I wonder whether such tactics truly help rally support in the Middle East, because worldwide, the beheadings are merely reminders of why al Qaida must be exterminated.
It's why Bush's War in Iraq is such a mortal sin. These al Qaida assholes were cornered in Afghanistan. We had them. They were ours. And Bush couldn't be bothered to finish the deal. His Iraq obsession and Rumsfeld's refusal to wage the Afghan war correctly (read: more boots on the ground) let these scum escape.
In a way, we should be thankful al Qaida is so clearly displaying its brutality to the world. It makes our mission of eradicating them a clear moral imperative, and one that transcends cultures and national boundaries. Our allies have never wavered in their conviction on the matter, even as Bush and his allies (including the 101st Fighting Keyboardists) villified them on Iraq.
We could've been well on the way to defeating al Qaida. We could've strengthened the international institutions that make fighting global terrorism across borders more effective. We could've encouraged democratization across the Middle East, including so-called allies like Egypt and Saudi Arabia. And we could've dedicated ourselves to rebuilding Afghanistan and ensuring that it could never revert to the terrorist sanctuary it has become once again.
Bush's failures on terrorism make me physically sick, literally. Now, when I think of "Bush's War on Terror", I associate it with "beheading". And I really, really wish it hadn't come down to that.